Category Archives: Detroit

Thaddeus Hambrick (Pony)

Being homeless is hard.  We all know this.

Not knowing where your next meal will come from is hard.  Not having security about where you’ll sleep at night is hard.  Not having a roof over your head is hard.  Not being able to provide for yourself is hard.  Not having a network of family and friends to help you out is hard.  Being looked at as the bane of society is hard.  Not having a change of clothes (especially socks) is hard.  Having to poop in public and not be able to properly wipe is hard.  Not being able to bathe is hard.  Not being able to go to the doctor if you’re sick is hard.

About 11 years ago I met a crack dealer named Pony.  After we met and began to talk, he told me his real name.  “Thaddeus, like Jesus’s disciple.”  Every time we met for the next 6 months or so he’d remind me of his real name, “Thaddeus, like Jesus’s disciple.”  My friend the crack dealer really wanted me to learn his real name and he helped me remember it because he was named after one of Jesus’s disciples.  Thaddeus and I became friends over the next years.  He met Jesus.  Because he met Jesus, he stopped dealing crack.  Because he stopped dealing crack, he became homeless.  And because he stopped dealing crack, the people he used to work for started trying to kill him.  They ran him over with a car 3 times.  They shot him 5 times.  On the same day.  My friend, Thaddeus lived.  Thank God.

Thaddeus helped me understand something that’s harder than all the rest though.  A life of homelessness isn’t just hard because of all the insecurities and need that every day carries.  A life of homelessness is a life of anonymity.  No one knows you and no one cares.  You just don’t matter to the world.  That’s the hardest part of being homeless.

Many homeless people live and die in the shadows.  Their bodies are found frozen in abandoned elevator shafts or bloated behind dumpsters in alleys.  There’s no funeral.  There’s no headstone.  There’s no mourning.  There’s no obituary and no one to notify.  They’re just gone.  And before they die, years before they die, they know this is the end that awaits them.  Because it’s every day.

I met Thaddeus on July 7th, 2007.  We became friends and I’d see him almost every week.  I saw him on December 19th, 2009 a few weeks after he’d been run over and shot.  I thought it was the last time I’d see him.  He was so frail and still had 5 bullets lodged in his body.  And when I didn’t see him in the following weeks and months, I thought he’d died and I’d never know for sure.  Then, across town 6 years later on August 17th, 2015, we ran into each other again.  He’d gotten a job and was no longer homeless.  He was doing well. “Jesus has been good to me, Mike!”  I was overwhelmed with joy to see my friend again and to know he was alright.  I ran to him and hugged him.  However, on this day 2 years ago, February 15th, 2015, my friend Thaddeus Hambrick died.

But Thaddeus didn’t die in anonymity.  I will always remember my friend, Thaddeus.  Like the disciple.  His picture’s on my wall.  His memory burned into mine.  Your strength, endurance and humility inspired me, Thaddeus.  I’ve used your story of coming to and following Jesus as an example for many.  I’ll never forget you.  I will see you again, my friend.

A BBQed Prayer

Sometimes I write prayers…

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for this day. Thank you for bringing the sun up this morning. Thank you for waking us up this morning. Thank you for sharing this beautiful day you’ve made with us. Thank you for loving us enough to come down from heaven and be with us. Thank you for forgiving us for the terrible things we have done and keep doing out of our struggle and brokenness and unwilling selfishness. Thank you for choosing to reach out to us with your loving arms and welcoming us into your great embrace every day. Thank you for this food you’ve made and given to us. Thank you for the hunger pangs in our bellies right now that remind us of how much we need the food that you’ve given us. Thank you for adopting all of us who turn to you as sons and daughters. Thank you for creating around us, right here, right now, today and every Saturday and often throughout our days and weeks and lonely nights a loving family of adopted brothers and sisters. Together we get to be your sons and daughters. Your treasured little kids. Thank you Lord for adopting me, for forgiving me, for taking me in and making something beautiful out of the mess I’ve created with they life you’ve given me. Thank you Lord for your love.
Let it be so. Amen.

A homeless man’s prayer

I just finished an interview with CBS channel 62 at the new Elevate Detroit CommuniD BBQ park. I’ve got a cold. So on Facebook this morning I asked for prayers during the interview. While there a homeless man came and sat on one of the benches and said, “Hallelujah, thank you Lord for sitting on this bench.”

As I was leaving I waved at him and he waved back. I walked over to say hi. As I came close I could hear him talking, but couldn’t understand everything he was saying. Then he waved me off and said, “I can’t talk right now, I’m praying for you.”

My friends, you haven’t lived until you walk up and overhear a homeless man privately praying for protection and provision for you!

God is so amazing!

Thank you, Lord! I needed that today.

Bus fare

Last Saturday, at Elevate Detroit’s Detroit CommuniD BBQ, I spent the afternoon with a friend of mine. His name is Mike. Mike is extremely poor and almost homeless. I haven’t known Mike for long. We’ve been friends for only the last 2 months. In that time, I’ve learned he’s a father, grandpa and great grandpa. He and his wife are also followers of Jesus.

Mike asked me for bus fare. He said he needed $1.25 and that he’d “pay me back next week.” I happened to have 5 quarters in my car so I gave it to him. Mike’s wife asked me separately if I could bring him some new socks sometime.

Over the past week I posted on Facebook asking for donations for socks. Someone generously donated $50! So I went to Wal-Mart and bought as many socks as $50 would buy. We distributed all, but one package to people at today’s BBQ. I kept one package to give to Mike if I saw him.

About half way through Mike’s wife came over and said, “Mike is home today because he hurt himself, but he asked me to come and tell you he has something for you. Stop by and see him before you go.”

I went to Mike’s door at the end of the BBQ. I was greeted with a hearty hug and $2. (He had to remind me I’d given him any money.) I then handed him the package of socks (which he didn’t know his wife has asked for). What a fantastic thing!!

This is how we give through CommuniD BBQs! Not handouts to poor strangers or passersby… Sharing with friends as we’re able. There is such beauty in generosity! And as beautiful and awesome as it is for the relatively comfortable to share… It’s so much more beautiful when the poor are allowed to share too!!

Giving Back

Dynamite:

“Giving back means giving all; any inferior definition is pure deception. Our money, our resources, our gifts, our time, our dreams, our selfish ambitions, our comfort — these we give back in their entirety. Anything less is not discipleship at all. It is simply a clever substitution by a crafty enemy who has figured out how to use our own weaknesses against us, rocking us to complacent sleep with a consumer version of the gospel and knowing all the while he is making goats out of sheep.” – Brandon Hatmaker (Barefoot Church, pg. 113)

Boom.

No rain… Again!

Matthew 8:26 (NIV)

“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

Mark 4:39 (NIV)

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

So often I’ve read this passage and pictured that night out on the water.  I used to arrogantly and piously scoff at the disciples.  “Look how dumb they were.”  “How could they still not get it?!”  “How could they not understand that they were safe with him?!”

I’ve grown since then though… a little.  The verses just before this are Jesus teaching them how much it will cost them to follow him.  He tells them they will be homeless.  He tells them they will have to miss important, meaningful family moments.  He’s teaching them it will cost them their livelihoods, possibly their families and surely their plans.

He hasn’t given them any comfort.  And shortly thereafter, here they are… on a lake in a furious storm in a boat that’s about to be swamped.  They’ll drown.  Danger is all around.  And they run to him.  They wake him.  They beg him.

They don’t doubt his ability to save them like I used to think.  What they doubt is his awareness of the situation.  And they seem to have an idea of how he will save them when they ask.  I’m curious to know what they were expecting.  Maybe they were expecting him to raise the boat out of the water.  Maybe they expected the water to suddenly be held back from over the rails of the boat, similar to Moses crossing the Red Sea and God holding the water back.  Or maybe… they were expecting him to calm the storm.

Whatever their expectations of his actions, they were afraid.  Stressed.  Terrified.  And they were begging him for help.

In five years of CommuniD BBQs, I have no idea how many times God has calmed the storms for us.  I have seen clouds part, literally.  I have seen rain inexplicably surround a park without falling on it.  Twice.  Countless times we have seen and reaped the benefits of those words, “Quiet! Be still!”

Last Saturday.  It was raining.  The forecast called for heavier rain as the day went on.  No relief.  No hope of a break in the storm.  Just cold, miserable rain.  We had three CommuniD BBQs scheduled for the day; Detroit, Hazel Park and Southfield.  I got phone calls from all three leaders asking what to do, when to call it off, etc.  Three leaders who’ve watched these storms calm in the past with me all concerned, maybe even afraid that we’ll get rained out.  I talked them through it, encouraged them, reminded them of miracles of the past and God’s faithfulness in the present.  At the end of the day, all three events happened.  Not a drop of rain fell where it wasn’t supposed to.  Not an once of falling water was left to disrupt God’s plan for the day.  A miracle.  Again.  Amazing.

This Saturday.  It’s raining again.  It’s grey.  It’s cold.  It’s miserable weather.  The rain wasn’t supposed to let up until at least 4:00 pm.  It looked like it would linger on long past then.  We had two CommuniD BBQs scheduled for the day; Detroit and Pontiac.  I looked outside and thought, we might get rained out today.  Again, I got calls from leaders.  Again, anxious, nervous, expecting the rain to continue.  Again, I reassured them reminding them of God’s faithfulness in the past.  What they didn’t know was that this time, I was feeling the same way as they were.  I was nervous.  I was afraid.  I was grasping onto those memories with them.  I was needing the reminders every bit as much as they did.

With the shakiness in my soul of a one year old walking, in faith I continued to encourage them (and me).  I set out from living in Pontiac to drive to Detroit.  Wipers on.  Heat on.  Cold rain.  Answering calls, replying to texts and when no one else was asking me, I was still praying, hoping… no rain.  “Lord, I’m trusting you against my gut instinct of fear.  I will speak in confidence that you will again calm the storms; hoping you do.”

We are such forgetful people.  We are so quick to lose our faith.  We are so quick to be afraid.  And we run to him saying, “Lord, our event will drown!  Don’t you care?  Won’t you help us?  Aren’t you paying attention?”  I don’t think he was bothered that the disciples asked him for help.  They needed help.  What he rebukes them for is their fear and lack of faith.

I can scoff at their lack of faith all I want.  I mean, they could see Jesus right in front of them after all.  But I am every bit as deserving of that scoffing myself.  I may not yet have seen Jesus physically in front of me.  But I have seen the fruit of his words, “Quiet! Be still!” countless times.

So today… AND last week… God held back the clouds!!  In these last 2 Saturdays we’ve seen over 500 people share a meal together.  There have been 5 CommuniD BBQs in 4 locations with 14 partnering groups.  It’s been an incredible couple weeks!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen God work miracles with the weather on Saturday afternoons.  Five years and we’ve cancelled only 4.  That’s quite a track record of good weather!  And yet every time I can hardly believe it!  Our God still calms the storms!  And He creates space for His Body to form and love at a common table.

My God… YOU ARE AMAZING!!

No rain

This is the second weekend in a row where it was raining in the morning and they were calling for more rain throughout the day… and God held back the clouds!! In those 2 Saturdays we’ve seen over 500 people share a meal together at 5 #CommuniDBBQs in 4 locations with 14 partnering groups. Because our God still calls the storms… And creates space for His Body to form and love at a common table. My God… YOU ARE AMAZING!!